Irina is dying. She desperately searches for blood during her last days on Earth while living in a run down motel.
The film is ostensibly about a vampire who’s at the end of her existence and her final days on Earth. She lives alone in a dilapidated motel, how she ended up here is never disclosed. The motel manager tries to protect her for some ungodly reason and there’s a shabby looking prostitute who’s also seemingly reached the end of her (Figurative) rope who seems to want to end it all as well.
It’s really hard to write a review for a film like this. Alexander probably wouldn’t agree with me but he has taken on the role of auteur here. How could he be called anything else though? He not only wrote & directed “Blood For Irina”, he also wrote the score for it, edited & co-shot the movie (With co-star David Goodfellow). A true labor of love, this film defies all expectations that one would have for a film about a dying vampire & how she goes about the last days of her life. She doesn’t go on a bender wantonly slaughtering people right & left, she just sort of slowly gives up. Emphasis on slowly…
There is virtually no dialog in the movie aside from a few voice over moments where Irina is speaking to herself. And even then it’s just a few abstract words. “Blood For Irina” is driven by it’s visuals. Alexander pays homage to directors like Jean Rollin & Jess Franco here and he is truly a student of their languid style (There’s a whole lot of Rollin going on here). His visuals are dreamy, ethereal & for lack of a better word…groovy! A lot of this film feels like a fever dream, with the actors going through their paces slowly…as if in a state of suspended animation. As Irina, Shauna Henry literally floats through the film. Early in the film there’s a scene of her slowly walking down a street one evening. Now there’s a slow walk & there’s a slow walk! She ambles down the street so slowly that it literally looks like her feet are not on the ground. Alexander’s camerawork is both static & electric, there are scenes that seemingly go on forever with very little actually happening and while I was initially put off by his unwavering commitment to letting each scene play out in real time after a while they became fascinating. What was initially laborious became interesting to me because I found myself focused on his images, fairly hypnotized by the music, waiting for something to happen.
I cannot say enough about the score. Alexander wrote & recorded the score before shooting the film and he tailored the shooting of the film to his music. It sounds like a lot of work (It was) but the man had a vision and he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams in terms of the overall efficacy of the music. It’s throbbing, pounding, orchestral, experimental & operatic all at the same time! And during some scenes the music digs it’s way into your head, never giving you a chance to deny it’s power. It reminded me of the score to Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” during some moments & at other times it was like nothing I’d ever heard before. I’d love to see it get some kind of commercial release.
Speaking of Kubrick, a lot of this film felt “Kubrick-ian” to me. Alexander is a major fan of directors like the previously mentioned Jean Rollin and Jess Franco and their influence is indeed evident here but I just felt a lot of Kubrick as the movie progressed. There’s a scent of Stanley in the air here and I don’t think Chris would disagree with me. During a Q & A after the film he admitted an affinity for “Eyes Wide Shut” and there are times during “Blood For Irina” where the pacing was identical to Kubrick’s last film.
You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t really gotten into the plot yet and there’s a reason for that. Although there is a plot here, it’s smothered over by Alexander’s choice to film this sans dialog. In all honesty, I don’t think the threadbare story really mattered to him all that much. His desire to tell the story through imagery is laudable but the film is so slow & dreamlike that it’s easy to forget what the movie is all about, I was swept away by what I was watching and I really did have to remind myself what was supposed to be happening every so often. And I really don’t think I could break down the story to you with any real veracity. It’s truly something you have to experience for yourself.
“Blood For Irina” is meant to be an immersive experience and indeed it is, I’ve never seen anything like it. It is a hypnotic, bombastic, audacious, challenging & enveloping cinematic experience. But do all of those fancy words mean it’s any good? Well…i liked it but I didn’t love it. I don’t mind being challenged by any film I watch, that’s the goal isn’t it? I want to come away from a movie feeling like I’ve been through a struggle of sorts, where I care about the characters and what’s happening to them. Where I leave the theater thinking about them and what might have happened to them after the film is done. “Blood For Irina” isn’t that kind of movie. Alexander’s slavish desire to tell the story with images without dialog really makes it hard to follow after a while. I just got swept away by the way it all looked and forgot about why it was all happening. If you’re looking for a movie that moves…this ain’t for you.
But if you’re looking for something decidedly daring and different, something stylishly crafty? “Blood For Irina” is for you! But, forewarned is forearmed, it is a film that you have to commit yourself to watching. It’s not an easy film to sit through but Alexander wasn’t trying to make it easy for anyone, and he hasn’t.
“Blood For Irina” – 3 out of 5 shrouds
Blood For Irina (2012)